Lawsuits aim to halt ballot initiatives to create voucher-style education program

The Education Advocacy Group is trying to stop attempts to revive the voucher-style educational program in Nevada before the issue reaches voters.

Beverly Rogers and Rory Reed, who serve as chairman and chief executive of the Rogers Foundation, respectively, filed lawsuits in Carson City District Court Tuesday in a bid to close what they describe as a “voucher scheme that harms public schools, promotes discrimination and ignores responsibility ”.

The lawsuit comes just three weeks after a political action committee called Education Freedom for Nevada filed a statutory and constitutional initiative with Secretary of State Barbara Tsegauske’s office to create “education freedom accounts” that will allow parents to access public funds to pay for educational environments. or services outside the public school system.

In the lawsuit, Tsegovsky was named as the defendant, Rogers challenged the statutory initiative, and Reid challenged the constitutional initiative. The Rogers Foundation is a charity in Las Vegas that focuses on education and empowers Educate Nevada Now, a political unit that advocates for equity and school funding.

In a statement announcing the lawsuits, Rogers and Reed argue that if the initiatives succeed and create a voucher-style program, it could divert at least $ 300 million a year from the public school system. The estimate is based on the number of teens aged 5 to 18 living in Nevada, according to the census, who do not attend traditional public or charter schools, Rogers Foundation officials said. Preschoolers and adults are excluded from the estimate.

Courts challenge the 200-word “description of the effect” of each initiative, a brief summary of the measures included in the signature collection forms. They also argue that the initiatives create “a huge price tag on the scheme [that] remains unacceptably deprived of funding. “

The PAC initiatives claim that the money that goes into the education freedom accounts will be comparable to the nationwide funding per student that public schools receive. That figure is $ 6,890 this fiscal year.

Rogers offered a rough estimate of what she sees as an attempt to pull money out of an already underfunded public school system.

“Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about school choice, we’re talking about that school choice deny students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, religious affiliation or lack thereof, or because they need additional resources to succeed, ”Rogers said in a statement. “We support public schools because they serve all students.”

The voucher-style program with so-called Educational Savings Accounts (ESA) sparked years of political fighting in Nevada. The legislature was also adopted by the then governor. Brian Sandoval signed a bill to establish the ESA program in 2015. But a lawsuit challenged the program, and it eventually ran out of funding. The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that the preconditions are constitutional but not a funding mechanism.

Lawyers sued Lopez against Schwartz, but the Rogers Foundation paid for filing and other administrative fees.

Nevada Freedom for Education is headed by Erin Phillips, co-founder and president of the advocacy organization Power2Parent. Phillips said the trial was expected and did not interfere with the PAC mission.

“There will always be those who want to defend the status quo,” she said in a statement. “But we are confident in the language, and it is clear that the people of Nevada are ready for a fundamental change in our approach to education … We look forward to winning this lawsuit and moving to the signature collection phase.”

PAC initiatives have the same goal, but involve two different pathways. If the constitutional initiative had received enough signatures by June 15, it would have appeared on the ballot for the November general election. Meanwhile, the statutory initiative has a deadline of collecting signatures until November 23, which could potentially become an issue during the 2023 legislative session.

In any case, supporters of the initiative must collect at least 140,777 valid signatures from registered Nevada voters, including at least 35,195 in each of the state’s four constituencies, to qualify the initiative for the next step. Litigation often narrows the window of opportunity for supporters to collect the necessary signatures.

The contenders promised not to promote the initiatives, claiming that they are misleading the public, as well as violating and abusing the initiative process.

“We’ve won vouchers before and we’ll do it again,” Rogers said in a statement. “I understand the frustration of our schools now, but the solution is not to further deplete their resources or fund a system that can choose which children they support.”

Copies of the lawsuit from Carson City District Court were not available immediately.

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